Third year medical student Dan Cain is on the verge of graduating from the New England Miskatonic University Medical School. That is until Dr. Herbert West walks into his life. Learning all he can from neurologist Dr. Hans Gruber in Zurich, Switzerland, West eagerly enrolls as a student at Miskatonic to viciously dismantle, what he believes, is a garbage postmortem brain functionality theory of the school’s grant piggybank Dr. Carl Hill while West also works on his own off the books after death experiments with his formulated reagent serum. West takes up Cain’s apartment for rent offer and involves Cain in a series of experiments that lead to reviving the old and the fresh dead. The only side effects of revitalizing dead tissue is the unquenchable rage and chaos that urges the recently revived to rip everything to shreds. Things also get complicated and people begin to die and then revive when West and Cain’s work becomes the obsessive target of Dr. Hill, whom discovers the truth and plans to steal West’s work, claiming the reagent serum as his own handiwork while also attempting to win the affection of Dr. Cain’s fiancee and Miskatonic’s Dean Halsey daughter, Megan Halsey, in the most undead way.
A vast amount of time has passed since the last time I’ve injected myself with the “Re-Animator” films and I can tell you this, my rejuvenation was sorely and regrettably way overdue. Stuart Gordon’s impeccable horror-comedy, “The Re-Animator,” is the extolled bastardized version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein without direct references and begins the ghastliness right from the initial opening prologue and never wanes through a fast-paced narrative of character thematic insanity and self-destructing arrogance with hapless do-gooders caught in the middle of undead mayhem. Producer Brian Yuzna financially backs Charles Band’s Empire International Pictures distributed 1985 film that’s based loosely off the H.P. Lovecraft 1922 novelette “Herbert West-Reanimator.” From a bygone novelette to an instant cult favorite amongst critics and fans, “Re-Animator” glows vibrantly like it’s reagent serum embodied with reality-buckling entertainment and grisly havoc displayed through the silver screen adapted form. Umbrella Entertainment has released a two-disc collector’s set, the first volume on their Beyond Genres label of cult favorites, and this release, with various versions, will include the allusive 106 minute integral cut!
From his first moments on screen holding a syringe to over three decades of pop-culture films, comics, and social media presence, nobody other actor other than Jeffrey Combs could be envisioned to be the insatiable Dr. Herbert West. Combs is so compact with an explosive vitality that his character goes beyond being a likable derivative of a Machiavellian anti-hero. Narrowing, dagger-like eyes through thick glasses on-top of small stature and a cruel intent about him makes Combs an established horror icon unlike any other mad doctor we’ve ever seen before. Bruce Abbot costars as Dr. Dan Cain, a good natured physician with a penchant of not giving up on life, but that’s where he’s trouble ensnares him with Dr. West’s overcoming death obsession. Abbott’s physically towers over Combs, but his performance of Cain is softly acute to West’s hard nose antics. Abbott plays on the side of caution as his character has much to lose from career to fiancée, whose played by Barbara Crampton. “Re-Animator” essentially unveiled the Long Island born actresses and made her a household name who went on to have roles in other prominent horror films, including another Stuart Gordon feature “From Beyond,” “You’re Next,” and the upcoming “Death House.” David Gale rounds out the featured foursome as the detestable Dr. Carl Hill. Gale embraces the role, really delving into and capturing Dr. Hill’s maddening short temper and slimy persona; a perfect antagonist to the likes of Combs and Abbott. The remaining cast includes Robert Sampson (“City of the Living Dead”), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and Peter Kent.
The “Re-Animator” universe is right up there with the likes of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.” Hell, there is even a line of comics that pit the two franchises together in a versus underlining. Unfortunately, “Re-Animator” is frankly nothing without the franchise star Jeffrey Combs, much like “The Evil Dead” is nothing without Bruce Campbell even though we, as fans, very much enjoyed the Fede Alvarez 2013 remake despite the lack of chin. Gordon’s film needs zero remakes with any Zac Efron types to star in such as holy role as Dr. Herbert West. That’s the true and pure terrifying horror of today’s studio lucrative cash cow is to remake everything under the genre sun. Fortunately, “Re-Animator” and both the sequels have gone unscathed and unmolested by string of remakes, reboots, or re-imagings. Aside from a new release here and there, such as Umbrella’s upstanding release which is fantastic to see the levels of upgrades up until then, “Re-Animator” has safely and properly been restored and capsulated for generations to come.
Umbrella Entertainment proudly presents the first volume of the Beyond Genres’ label with Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator” on a two-disc, full HD 1080 Blu-ray set, presented in a widescreen 1.77:1 aspect ratio. A very fine and sharp image quality that maintains equality across the board with minuscule problematics with compression issues, jumping imagery on solid colored walls for example, but the issues are too small amongst the rich levelness of quality and when compared to other releases, Umbrella Entertainment’s release is a clear-cut winner. The English DTS-HD master audio puts that extra oomph into Richard Bands’ score that’s heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” adding a pinch of chaotic gothic charm to the macabre story. Dialogue is balanced and upfront, but there isn’t much prominent ambient noise to put the dialogue off-kilter. Special features on the first disc include the 86 minute unrated version of “Re-Animator,” audio commentaries from director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson; there’s also a “Re-Animator Resurrectus” documentary, 16 extended scenes, and a deleted scene. The second disc includes the 106 itegral cut along with interviews with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, writer Denis Paoli, composer Richard Band, and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. Plus, a music analyst by Richard Band, TV spots, and the theatrical trailer. All this and a bag of corpses is sheathed inside a remarkably beautiful encasement with a seriously wicked custom slipcover desgin by illustrator Simon Sherry. There’s also reversible Blu-ray casing cover art with previous designs incorporated. H.P. Lovecraft would be extremely flattered and proud on how Umbrella Entertainment not only enhanced the film adaptation of his classic tale of macabre, but also with how diabolically attired the release is distributed. A true horror classic done right!
Unable to cope working as a hospice nurse, Danni begins a new life in a new apartment after separating herself from a server downhearted state while living with her uncle Gus. As Danni settles into her degrading new job involving saving the whales and into her small apartment, she begins to decorate her home, starting with hanging a simple shower curtain. However, as soon as she exits the bathroom, the shower curtain vanishes and so begins the mystery that leads to the discovery that she’s now part of secret order to protect The Gate, a passage way that can be used to give birth to the vilest evil. With the tireless help from her co-worker Tim, the two set off to stop The Gate from potentially destroying Dani’s life…or the world.
Movies like “Curtain” are the reason why I enjoy writing about them so very much. One tiny event, an event anyone would think couldn’t be turned into a full feature film, snowballs through the pages of a script and that script is presented to us by independent filmmakers Carys Edwards, writer, and Jaron Henri-McCrea, writer and director, of “Curtain.” The 74-minute film revolving around shower curtains being sucked into the bathroom tile opens with a seemingly distraught individual on an empty subway car, rambling and shaking after a reoccurring and thunderous dream that doesn’t make sense at that moment. The film’s hook comes early, sucking us into this man’s life when we learn he’s duck taped his bathroom door shut. He’s tensely afraid of the small enclosure to where one goes for unburdened release whether to drop a load or get cleaned up, but as the man decides to cut away the tape and opens the door to proceed in hanging a curtain, he unintentionally sets the stage for our heroine, Danni.
Solid performances all around by the cast. Danni Smith, portraying her namesake character, conveys a strong, defiant character even in the wake of her depressive struggle. Her characters goes through complete denial of the curtain eating bathroom, shutting down Tim, played by Tim Lueke, almost instantly when he’s curiously goes berserk of the possibilities of what to gain from this phenomenon. Tim Lueke does amazing work displaying a naïve activist and we discover the character’s humbleness through his naïveté, making him a likeable, standout character whose has motives that semi trump his passions when Danni is concerned. I really liked Martin Monahan and his Pale Man character, a blind gatekeeper, if you will, trying to protect the realms The Gateways portals. Monahan worked with director Jaron Henrie-McCrea previously, headlining Henrie-McCrea’s comedy-thriller “Pervertigo,” and the Indiana native takes a backseat, co-starring role that packs a memorable punch, leaving an everlasting mark of solemn and death.
If you haven’t noticed already, Henrie-McCrea has an affection for Alfred Hitchcock films. Between “Pervertigo,” a slight play of words from Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” starring James Stewart, to this film entitled “Curtain;” the shower curtain is an iconic set piece for Hitchcock’s more popular film “Psycho.” The Columbia University alumnus Henre-McCrea knits his own pattern into the Sci-Fi Horror film that is “Curtain,” subtly building-in comedy elements amongst the characters and not so much surrounding the situation. The young director has an eye for cinematography and bringing substance from the scene to the forefront as the director blends suspense, terror, comedy, and sadness, meshed together so intricately it’s seamlessly composites all genres that’s shot in some particular tight locations. The comedy stems from only certain characters such as the crass Preston The Super or Willy the homeless, paint can sniffer.
Much of Henrie-McCrea’s shock value spurs from intense close ups, as you’ll see in this articles screen shots. Quick, loud, and in your face scares or disturbances that’ll cause eye-popping jumps effectively note “Curtain’s” tone. This technique is very familiar with Evil Dead’s Sam Raimi and does bear a resemblance to a staple of 80’s horror with an Italian-like synth score by Adam Skerritt to match. Creature and special effects are briefly shown to obscure the possibility of detecting flaws (perhaps) and also to suggest that less is more, leaving more for the mind to fill out the horror’s of what you just saw. No scenes are left lingering on the horrific moments as much of “Curtain” is story centric, focusing on the mystery of The Gateway.
Frightfest presents the Icon Studio’s “Curtain” on DVD this July 18th in the UK. The DVD will be released in a gorgeous 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix and an accompanying 2.0 stereo mix option. The DVD includes a film introduction, an presentation commentary, and an entertaining making-of featurette. I can’t comment too much on the audio and video since a DVD-R was available for screening. “Curtain” has a particular taste of comedy that’s favorably dry and on-point synced well to the horror mystery engulfing the genre. Director Jaron Henri-McCrea becomes a force to be reckoned with paired to the talented actors Danni Smith, Tim Lueke, and Michael Monahan. “Curtain” is everything that’s right with horror-comedies and nothing short of excellent independent filmmaking.
After the success of writer-director James Cullen Bressack’s “To Jennifer,” a sequel begins to shape from the mind of aspiring filmmaker Spencer. Spencer’s quest is to locate the perfect, the one-and-only, Jennifer actress, who must bare the birth name as well. With a trip to Los Angeles and the help from his former high school buddy Mac, Spencer has quickly lined up a handful of potential Jennifers in hopes of one of them becoming his leading lady. Spencer and Mac finally decide on Jennifer Pope, a young actress who has yet to see the original film. Everything seems to be on track, but a dark cloud lingers overhead, slowly developing upon a hidden secret that’ll take the sequel “2 Jennifer” to the next deranged level.
Hunter Johnson’s directorial debut hits the home entertainment market three years after Bressack’s iPhone shot suspenseful thriller “To Jennifer” in 2013 courteously from Psykik Junky and MVDVisual. Johnson, who also dons the role of the film’s star, Spencer, writes and directs the official sequel about the unofficial sequel to “To Jennifer.” You got that? Bressack tags along as executive producer with the Sector 5 distributed indie horror, which is also shot on cellphone cameras and small digital cameras, co-starring David Coupe as Mack and Lara Jean Mummert as the film’s namesake – Jennifer. To throw in a couple of familiar and iconic horror actresses to legitimize “2 Jennifer,” “Deadly Revision’s” Dawna Lee Heising and “Sleepaway Camp’s” Felissa Rose make cameo appearances that are strategically satirical.
Now, I haven’t yet sat down to view James Cullen Bressack’s “To Jennifer,” even though I do own a copy. However, the sequel can and does stand alone as a separate body of work, an entity that doesn’t need to crutch or leech itself from the original movie. “2 Jennifer” sets up the necessary information in the prologue with numerous faux interviews, one of them being Dawna Lee Heising, needed to convey to comprehend any sort of background in order for blind buy viewers who don’t know that “2 Jennifer” is a sequel (or viewers like me who haven’t yet watched the original, but is aware of it’s existence) to proceed with a voyeuristic tale of disturbing macabre.
The story starts off slow. With the artificial interviews designed to construct a clean and clear enough picture of Bressack’s original film, super fanatic Spencer then jumps into camera view to fulfill Bressack’s wish, as seen from the last interview segment, of a brand new filmmaker tackling a followup to his hit film. Spencer seems like a normal joe, cultivating crew, equipment, locations, and talent that sizes him up to be a gung-ho participant for his Jennifer horror story. While Spencer dedication is unwavering, his underlining intentions are hard to surface and, eventually, something isn’t quite right with Spencer. Mack senses turmoil, but doesn’t grasp the full picture either. As Spencer start to unravel is when the tale begins to pick up a dangerous and unpredictable amount of steam, energizing a massive, ominous train of horror and lunacy that funnels down a twisted tunnel of reality disconnecting tragedy.
The acting overshot the mark of realism by a hair over the margin. For a film that’s shot digitally on phones and handhelds, a more natural performance needs to be approached and all the acting conveyed nothing short of very staged. Staged in a good way as the acting wasn’t terrible, but far from it. The affect just didn’t fit the mold. Hunter Johnson performed troublingly naturalistic with his transmogrified character whereas David Coupe profusely oozed of trained actor. Even Bressack’s semi-small role of himself perceived overly rehearsed with the director portraying to be coked out of his mind and joyfully intoxicated in the midst of his small party of fraternizers and partakers of substances.
Sector 5 distributes the original LAHorror.com “2 Jennifer” film through local cable providers and pay-per-view services come this August. The 90-minute film sent to me was a burned screener disc copy and won’t have the audio or video qualities critiqued for obvious reasons. Bottom line is to give Hunter Johnson’s “2 Jennifer” a go, especially if you’re a fan of the first film. The characters develop nicely with their niceties getting their throats cuts in a jaw-dropping, gut-checking ending that’ll sure to please every gore fan.
Ex-cons Victor (Tygo Gernandt) and Rico (Marwan Kenzari) kidnap a young woman named Laura (Sarah Chronis) in hopes to extort a four million dollar cash payout from her wealthy father. The two men are methodical, precise, and focused on their task, constructing a sound proof room, buying burner cell phones, and keeping one step ahead of their captive’s thoughts on escape. Keeping her tied to the bed in a vacant apartment, Victor and Rico don specific roles in their plan; Victor leaves the apartment to negotiate the ransom while Rico oversees their money making hostage. When Laura cleverly works on getting the upper hand on one of them, she discovers that there might be a secondary plan involving her willing participation and leaving the other ex-con high and dry without a payday. Victor and Rico hold a surprising secret amongst themselves as well, making this crime thriller a cat-and-mouse game between the three where tensions are high, trust is low, and the end game won’t be pretty.
The Netherlands thriller directed by Joram Lürsen seems to be the polar opposite from the director’s previous directorial work. The “Reckless” niche focuses on being tight and concise. The film only credits three actors: Tygo Gernandt, Marwan Kenzari, and Sarah Chronis. That’s it and there isn’t even a voice over from a phone call or anything else of the sort, forcing the actors to only work off each other instead of being able to pick and choose who to bank off their banters and abilities. Secondly, the majority of the setting is in this small apartment that has become Laura’s cell which becomes another tight spot, literally. Finally, the story focuses on minor details with strict guiding dialogue that pieces together the story’s outcome and doesn’t make the plot wander into oblivion.
The story, which is a remake of the 2009 British thriller “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” strives off being simplistic; a kidnapping for ransom gone awry. However, there lies a mid act twist that keeps the situation fresh where constantly guessing to the real intentions of the characters is more fun than actually watching the ploy play out. Tygo Gernandt perfectly fits into the shoes of Victor by portraying the role extremely well of a hardened and a rule rigorous ex-con. Marwan Kenzari as Victor’s accomplice Rico relieves the other half of the tension Tygo’s aura emits with his soft eyes and gentle appeal toward Laura, but Rico scrambles to keep Tygo under control and that creates nail biting scenes between the three actors. Sarah Chronis as Laura offers so much to the table being the golden nugget for Victor and Rico, being their ticket for a new life in another part of the world. Chronis conveys being naive, conniving, and afraid well and acts upon her forced nudity with proper accordance to the situation and also uses her nudity, seductively and convincingly, to plan her intended escape.
However, where “Reckless” strives on being a successful crime thriller, it’s also the film’s ultimate downfall and suffers sequentially from “Psycho” syndrome. Remember when Gus Van Sant remade Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” nearly shot for shot and critics condemned Van Sant’s film? The same situation happens upon “Reckless” where nearly every character quality has become a carbon copy from “The Disappearance of Alice Creed.” Yes, “Reckless” is a true to form remake and a good reproduction as well, but for the Lürsen film to stand out, to be something more, “Reckless” doesn’t break the established mold. Instead, the film relies on it’s actors to accomplish a more riveting appeal and that’s hard to do when Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston, and Gemma Arterton already made a great first impression in the original.
The Artsploitation Films distributes “Reckless” in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio with super clear picture quality. The 5.1 Dolby Digital audio mix clearly appropriates the dialogue from the ambience form the soundtrack. The optional English subtitles sync well with the Dutch language track. I’m a little disappointed in the DVD cover as it resembles something that Dimension Films would have produced back in the early 2000s and doesn’t really speak to the film’s thrilling storyline. Overall, “Reckless” is a quality remake release for Artsploitation Films and for production company Topkapi Films that gave alternative, yet still quality, actors a chance to redo a role already grounded and established.
Three high school friends live in an online gaming and comic book world making them easy targets for sinister bullies. When one of them, Devon (Alexander Fraser), becomes the victim of extreme bullying, the gaming friends are forced to come together and cope with the brutal and aggravated assault laid upon their friend Devon. Becky (Alicia Rose), whose had a long lasting love for Devon, plans the ultimate revenge by teasing to expose a hidden secret on the world wide web about Devon’s bully neighbor John Brooks (Daren Ackerman). The circle of violence and secrets wildly spirals out of control to an extremely car-crash of a finale that will put Devon, Becky, and John in a trio of devastating destruction.
“All American Bully,” formally titled “The Innocent,” serves as not the typical bully-revenge film we’re aware of in such films as Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” or Jason Buxton’s “Blackbird” and that creates a misleading film title, but doesn’t necessarily hurt the film’s integrity. Director-writer John Hawkins intentionally creates an unexpected twist that’ll take the film into a totally different direction. With the help of the elusive, yet recently fan-revived cult “Friday the 13th” heroine Andrienne King and the superb acting by Daren Ackerman who portrays complex character John Brooks, “All American Bully” becomes a unique hybrid with a cultural and social timeliness that will surely strike the core like a bully punching you in the gut and kicking you while you’re down all for just your lunch money.
The John Hawkins film is not solely about high school bullying, but also about mental illness and childhood abuse to which all comes to the forefront to bring the house down at the end. The repercussions from years of bullying results in kidnapping, rape, and murder. Actor Daren Ackerman’s has a wide range playing the disturbing character John Brooks by never backing down from the character’s various stages. Ackerman complete shadows his peers such as Alexander Fraser who can’t strain from a monotone tone, Alicia Rose who has range but just not enough girth, and even Adrienne King who, I felt, played an overacting Principal.
There seems to be a side story that goes unexplained to which we have to make our own conclusion. Adrienne’s Principal Kane doesn’t trust her employed teacher Mr. Taylor that’s somehow related to her son being gay. I concluded that Mr. Taylor and her son had some kind of relationship that’s not being explicitly explained and this drives Principal King unhinged, but her breakdown doesn’t feel connected to the story, feeling separate from the body and not bring the film to closure. Perhaps Principal Kane’s mental break parallel’s the psychotic break that John Brooks suffers, displaying and defining two various scenarios of pain.
Speaking of homosexuality, Hawkins hits many gay undertones and not only with Principal Kane’s son and Mr. Taylor. There’s also a past relationship, even if only one sided, between Devon and John when they were tiny kids playing army in the woods. The overuse of the word fag becomes repulsive and that might be intended to reveal the true ugliness of the word. I had always thought fag might have faded into oblivion, especially in the film industry, but I guess in independent ventures the word still thrives to bring out the tensions and angers out of the viewers. Lastly on the topic, John becomes the plaything to all his mother’s friends and some of them being men, creating more taboo and disturbing qualities that make me think Hawkins is one warped individual. When Becky, played by an absolute beauty named Alicia Rose, and Devon actually have a heterosexual scene together, the mood becomes ruined when John gets a hold of them, to punish them, almost for being happy because his life turned out tragic and hopeless.
Forget the misleading title “All American Bully” (as I believe “The Innocent” works better) and the misleading Wild Eye Releasing DVD cover where a person gripping a firearm at their side in a student filled hallway; instead, focus on the film as a whole where the acting is solid and the direction tells a stunning story of various facets of bullying. Check out this Wild Eye Releasing DVD and also take a gander at the cast interviews as you’ll learn more about the actors backstory and how their take on bullying motivated them to create this film.